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Topic # 83095 10-May-2011 16:12
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With the digital switchover, more and more people are going to want to install Freeview. Since I have previously posted questions on the subject here and received many helpful suggestions, I am starting this thread for the benefit of any others who may be looking for information as I was.

We live on a farm in the Raukawa Range about 20 km from Hastings. The transmitters are on Mt. Erin near Havelock North, at a straight line distance of 18 km. A big hilltop not far away and some trees closer by block our line of sight to the transmission mast. In spite of this, I was hoping to be able to receive the high definition Freeview signal on UHF.

I have no special knowledge in this area and also no special equipment for measuring signal strength or pinpointing the location of the transmitter. I think this makes me an average person in this respect, so maybe my experience is useful for other average people looking for tips.

After doing a little general aerial research, I decided on an inexpensive triple boom design in the first instance. Because I didn’t really know what I was doing, I didn’t want to invest too much initially but I had to start somewhere and this aerial was touted as being a high gain solution (16 db claimed) for fringe reception areas. As a high definition receiver I chose an Orton 7000PVR from Trade Me.

Since all our region’s transmitters are located on Mt. Erin, I used the analogue transmissions of Prime and Maori TV as an initial guide. Digital tends to be all or nothing and unsurprisingly, I was unable to get a lock on anything with the aerial set up temporarily indoors. However, I was able to manually tune our old analogue TV to the Prime frequency even though the signal was almost non-existent, and by playing with the aerial, I was able to receive a very snowy monochrome image that was identifiable as Prime (Channel 61, by the way). This verified the best signal direction. I then tried the aerial on the veranda but it didn’t seem to make much of an improvement.

Our farmhouse has two storeys so the next test was with the aerial on the upstairs veranda. With this we were able to receive a distorted but almost watchable Maori TV signal, in colour and with sound. Still nothing at all on the digital tuner.

The next step was to temporarily lash the aerial to an unused chimney on a mast about five meters above the roof. Like magic the Freeview tuner came to life, locking in on all 18 available TV stations, as well as three digital radio ones. However, I soon realized that only the first eight were of good quality, with stable reception. According to the signal strength meter on the tuner, these are coming in at between 60% and 80%. These would be the stations on transmission channels 27 (DA) and 31 (DB), operated by TVNZ and Mediaworks. The upper eight stations, on channel 43 (DC Kordia), are badly pixilated, often drop out, and seem to disappear completely when the sun goes down. The radio stations are also no good. Today, which is overcast verging on rain, the Mediaworks stations are also pixilating a little. Yesterday, when it was sunny and clear, they were perfect.

I am actually fairly tickled with this result. It is much better than I dared hope. Even at its present height, the aerial is a long way from line of sight to the transmitter. It is still blocked by a big hilltop and trees. Yet our reception of the first eight stations appears to be almost perfect, at least on the analogue set. (There may be slight ghosting, but I am using the composite input so can’t be sure).

And that is with 10 meters of junk coax I happened to have lying around. I am now waiting on my order of RG6 so I can hook up the HDMI downstairs and see what the reception really looks like, though this will at least double the length of the coax so I don’t know if there will be any improvement. The point of all this being, I guess, is don’t despair if nothing works at first. Especially with digital, a little extra height can make all the difference, even when you don’t have line of sight.

Once we have the good coax, the next step will be to permanently install the aerial on a slightly higher mast. I’m hoping a couple more meters will do the trick for the weaker stations, which are right on the edge of being receivable. If not, the next step may be a higher quality aerial, though this one seems pretty good, and as a final touch, maybe a masthead amplifier.

As far as the tuner goes, I wanted something that could receive high definition but wouldn’t cost much until I knew whether we could make it work. The Orton seems pretty good so far, though one of the analogue audio channels appears to be faulty and only produces a loud buzz (I checked the cable and it’s not that). For us this is not a huge problem as we will be using the digital coax connection (already checked and verified) but it does call into question the quality of the rest of the unit. Other than that, the only issue so far is the EPG, which really does suck. Since this is a non-approved unit, I didn’t expect the programme guide to work seven days ahead, as advertised, but it doesn’t even work one day! Instead, all we get is the current program and the next one. This device does have a record function via USB, but if recording is actually important to anyone, the EPG would be a huge issue.

The USB also seems pretty touchy. It only worked intermittently with one of my flash drives and not at all with another, though it didn’t have any problem with a third. For some reason this seems to be a common issue with many comparable tuners, so I don’t think it is specific to Orton. At this point, everything else seems acceptable. I will post an update if and when that is merited. In the meantime, I hope this long tale is of use to someone.




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  Reply # 467628 10-May-2011 16:23
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Good on you! I'm originally from Raukawa too! Yay us!

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  Reply # 467655 10-May-2011 17:13
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If you are getting a marginal signal, just put a powered inline amplifier/splitter to help boost the signal, and distribute the signal form there to the rest of your house.  This will cost roughly the same if not cheaper than a new aerial. Although the masthead models like Kingray are far superior.
I had satellite a few years back, but the UHF HD is far superior especially on an HD TV at 1080i.

 
 
 
 


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  Reply # 467682 10-May-2011 17:49
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I've had similar experiences; there's a big tree obstructing the signal and I'm also getting "on and off" reception. I have a couple of backup plans but at this stage I'm just going to wait for the "restack" later this month which will lower the frequencies.

I know that lower frequencies penetrate objects better, so I'm hoping that a slight improvement will be enough to make it usable. I'm not holding my breath but I don't really have anything to lose!

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  Reply # 467702 10-May-2011 18:34
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DVB-T is pretty rock solid. It's possible to get Freeview|HD at signal levels that would result in a fairly snowy analogue signal.

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  Reply # 467793 11-May-2011 08:19
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Rikkitic: 
Other than that, the only issue so far is the EPG, which really does suck. Since this is a non-approved unit, I didn’t expect the programme guide to work seven days ahead, as advertised, but it doesn’t even work one day! Instead, all we get is the current program and the next one.


Most units world wide are expecting EIT data.  Freeview broadcasts a full weeks worth on the satellite service to ensure compatibility with standard satellite gear.  On the freeview HD/UHF/Land based service they only broadcast a tiny bit so you really have to go with an approved unit.  The official MHEG5 EPG gives the full 7 day EPG and on PVR units you can book directly from this and series link shows as well.

Well done on giving it a go where you live.  If you can manage to secure a reliable signal then you may want to consider upgrading to some of the official twin tuner PVRs that start at around $400 for the Zinwell one.

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  Reply # 467944 11-May-2011 15:03
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Jaxson: On the freeview HD/UHF/Land based service they only broadcast a tiny bit so you really have to go with an approved unit.  The official MHEG5 EPG gives the full 7 day EPG ...

All Freeview approved boxes provide support for the MHEG5 version of the EPG, and some but certainly not all non-approved boxes support it as well.

It is definitely worth having a box that can display the full 7 or 8 day EPG, but whether it is worth having a Freeview-approved box rather than a non-approved one which supports the EPG is a more difficult question.

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  Reply # 467953 11-May-2011 15:25
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Several of the approved Freeview HD receivers have been sold rebadged with support for the MHEG-5 EPG and HD over ypbpr. I think the YESS units that support MHEG-5 may be a bugfixed Extra Terrestrial.

The cheapest approved receiver is $149.

Some units don't support s-video and automatic switching output between 576i and 1080i so you'll have to switch manually for the best image quality or look for one that does support s-video if that's the best your TV has.



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  Reply # 467959 11-May-2011 16:00
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Since I made my original post I have been doing some more reading and have stumbled across some interesting archived threads in America and Australia. Correct me if I'm wrong but the impression I am getting is that the EPG has more to do with placating advertisers and content providers than any technical issues. As far as I can see, 'approved' (terrestrial high definition) devices with full EPG all have restrictions on ad skipping and moving copied programming off the hard drive. Non-approved devices without such restrictions have a crap EPG. Is this an attempt to control the choices of Freeview customers?

I also discovered that a PVR capable of automatically detecting and skipping all commercials was marketed overseas in 2006 and the company that produced it was bankrupted by lawsuits from broadcasters. Although there are currently software options that do the same thing on PCs, no PVR manufacturers have dared try this again. Presumably the FTA providers here don't want New Zealanders finding out about such possibilities?



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  Reply # 468381 12-May-2011 16:46
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I said I would update this thread if I had anything useful to add. Today we installed the RG6 coax and the difference was like night and day. Before I was using 10 meters of unknown type 75 ohm coax for testing. we were getting good reception of the strongest signals but bad pixillation and drop-outs of the weakest. Now, with 25 meters of RG6, reception is perfect all across the range! Lesson: Never underestimate the importance of good coax. It really does make all the difference.

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  Reply # 468819 13-May-2011 15:58
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Rikkitic: Never underestimate the importance of good coax. It really does make all the difference.

It's possible that good connections at either end of the coax cable may have made more difference than the actual change in cable did, but changing to good quality RG6 cable will definitely have helped.

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  Reply # 468820 13-May-2011 16:01
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Rikkitic: As far as I can see, 'approved' (terrestrial high definition) devices with full EPG all have restrictions on ad skipping and moving copied programming off the hard drive. Non-approved devices without such restrictions have a crap EPG.

Quite a few non-approved boxes are capable of displaying an EPG that is identical to the approved boxes.

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  Reply # 468829 13-May-2011 16:25
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Yeah the ET box had the proper MHEG5 EPG, but not the recording version of it. Any recordings had to be done in a nasty text based window thing.

So yes, you don't have to be approved to have the MHEG5 EPG apparently, but it appears that not many current ones have it if they aren't approved.



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Reply # 471486 20-May-2011 11:08
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It is time to put a conclusion on my story. We found a piece of old water pipe and added another two metres or so to the height of the aerial. Before, we had good reception of the stronger signals, but pixelation and drop-out of the weaker ones, especially at night. Now, we get perfect reception of all signals at all times. Just below roof level we have no digital reception at all, about five metres above the roof, good reception of the stronger signals, at about seven metres, perfect reception of all signals. The moral being, I guess, that height is good, more is better. Even so, we do not have line of sight to the transmitter. Not even close. I took a picture from the hillside behind the house at the same height as the aerial, which shows what the aerial sees, but I can't seem to attach it to this post. Apparently Geekzone does not support Opera.

This result was achieved with a $70 aerial found on Trade Me. No 500 element yagi, no masthead amplifier. And no line of sight. I'm blown away by the result. I never expected it to be this good. It just shows what can be achieved.

I don't know how long the cheap aerial will last, of course. Also, we still have to put up guy wires and a lightning conductor. All things taken together, though, it looks like a winner to me.

The Orton STB also seems to be working pretty well. Picture and 5.1 sound quality are good. HD USB recording and playback also works fine, though so far I can't get the .ts files to load into editors or play properly on the computer. The crippled EPG is a drag, but that's not an issue specific to Orton. In terms of value for money, I think it's a pretty good buy at $180.

So there you have it. If you live rural and want to set up a DIY UHF Freeview installation, you may be able to do it as I did, for less than $300. Good luck.

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  Reply # 471520 20-May-2011 12:18
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Rikkitic:
 so far I can't get the .ts files to load into editors or play properly on the computer.


I use VideoReDo for editing my .ts files. It is excellent and the latest version will also burn our NZ format to DVD. Well worth the purchase price.
I use VLC Media Player (Free) on the PC to play files and my A C Ryan Playon HD2 handles them on the TV OK.



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  Reply # 471672 20-May-2011 17:31
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I finally figured out how to post the image. Here it is.

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